This season Jed Dennison from Zilla State (One of our awesome sponsors) offered his awesome bike van to Mt Alpha to help us get more girls on trail. The van has been awesome to use at our Mt Alpha Women's clinic, Marshall Mountain race series, Missoula XC and coaching all spring-summer. A big thank you for the use of the van!
This is a great place to teach kids how to ride more technical terrain. At Lake Como, the trail is super rocky but flat. So the girls got to work on their technical skills. No real hills to climb or descents to drop, so the 7 mile ride was focused on taking a good line and charging over bumpy terrain.
I was happy to see the girls "trust" their bikes. I kept repeating that their bikes were made for this type of biking since many complained that it was too bumpy. I also stressed having more speed to get over obstacles while standing up to avoid "pinch flats" since so many of the girls still want to sit down. Standing with parallel feet takes time, and many of the girls are building up strength to stand up for longer on downhills and over obstacles.
Of course the other advantage to this ride is getting to swim! Great summer day in Montana.
Coaching the beginner level is always a challenge to find trails that offer the "right amount" of challenge. Last week I brought girls to ride around a secret lake trail that yields fun and skills.
This ride is flat, but it is full of roots to manage. I wanted the girls to ride this before I took them to Lake Como trail since roots are a good segway to rocks. The girls worked on lifting their front wheels and pushing their comfort with speed over obstacles. It was also hard to see the trail due to lack of activity and with mid-summer tall grass. We only had one good wreck, and of course it involved an Ant-Hill. Classic
This race I did as a Duo with my team mate Julie. Her husband is my dentist and I was in getting a cleaning (she cleans my teeth) and I mentioned to her that I wanted to do this 12 hour next Saturday. Does she wanna race? 2 days later we are registered and ready to go. Funny thing though, Julie has a new baby and wanted to only ride in the morning. Usually in an endurance race as a Duo you take turns, but I was desperate to race so I agreed to endure the heat of the afternoon.
This was a prettty cool race that included 40 miles of 10,000ft of climbing. Event organizers were giving away a free bike for the fastest "hot-lap" , so I went hard and ended up eating-it. This wreck actually messed me up good and when I got up off the ground to retreive my bike, the bars were bent due to my ribs, a good hard slam to the shoulder and skid down the left side of of my body left me feeling fairly beat-up. Those wrecks suck so bad at the beginning of a race. I had to pull it together and race another 30 more miles with 8,000ft of climbing in the heat of the day. Brutal.
In the end, Julie and I took 2nd overall. It was awesome to be on podium and I was super stoked to be apart of such a great inaugural event. Great job organizers!
Montana's Enduro series has been selling out well before the race. Though enduro is a relatively new discipline, its popularity among both men and women is indisputable. While men continue to significantly outnumber the ladies, the women’s fields are growing. Last year when I raced Hair of the Dog it was a small field and I got on podium without really going all-out. I road a safe race because I was injured, this year the field was HUGE! This is cool because for many women, the sport feels approachable. The emphasis on skill over cross country’s intense fitness demands makes enduro an appealing alternative. While downhill requires a specific bike, most trail bikes these days are enduro race-ready straight out of the box.My bike working since it is super light for XC racing and is full suspension. It is not ideal however, I would like to have more travel in the front since my suspension is only 4 inches, but it gets the job done. Also, I have a wish for small wheel size. Again my bike is rad for racing with 29 inch wheels that power up hills and over osticles, but in enduro having a 26 or 27.5 would be nicer on all the downhill cornering sections.
Honestly enduro feels like a return to my roots. I got into mountain biking in the early 1990s,and John and I would travel too races all summer and enjoy this great community of riders. Enduro races look a lot like the way many of us actually ride mountain bikes—suffer through the climbs in order to rail the descents. The 90's were good times.
So, I love this course. This is my home town stomping ground. The Marshall Mountain 5 mile loop is complete with pinchy, steep and loose switchbacks up and a fast descent full of off-camber turns, water bars, a gap jump on the “A” line with a landing between pad-wrapped trees (there is a “B” line to avoid the big air) and don't forget the crowd pleasing ramp jump near the finish. At the bottom is the "local glory" section which I bring jrs to ride and work on skills at the bottom of the mountain. This course is the real deal, you have to be fit and strong to make the technical climb and have guts backed by strong bike handling skills to descend without wrecking. I love it.
This year my favorite podium moment was 3rd place for Single Speed. It was my first single-speed race and it was grueling on the the mostly up-hill course of the Marshall course.
It was rad to MTB race at night under the lights, however is was pretty sketch in the trees. i really had to concentrate in the dark woods of "Local Glory". Since we were the last race after all the Pro Men and Pro Women's races, it was fun to have all the crowd cheering with a beer in hand. Special thanks to the Gravity Guild Dudes for converting my bike to a single speed.
Since my team helps put on the the Wednesday night race series and helps with Missoula XC, I am proud of these girls that give so much time. Kudos to these girls and all their volunteer time providing bike events for our community.
Women MTB racers have long occupied a small niche within the mountain bike community, and elite downhillers remain a rare breed, but Urban MTB girls are probably the smallest niche.
This is why the downtown urban eliminator race had even fewer girls willing to participate. Imagine racing on concrete and hucking a big gap jump with hundreds of people cheering in downtown Missoula. F.R.I.G.H.T.I.N.G
However, I always sign up for stuff like this. I don't know why, I guess it sounds fun to me and I think I can possibly do it. (John says I can be too positive for my own good.) Anyway, I got seeded with the #1 Pro racer. This girl was all business, so when we lined up together to charge full speed through Missoula's downtown concrete parking lot with screaming fans, I was crapping my pants.
On the course were massive logs to bunny hop, a long skinny 2x4 tabletop with a drop and a big gap jump at the end. I was determined to ride every feature and not take the "chicken line" since it was slower. I figured since this girl was a pro, she would ride every obstacle with grace, so my race plan was set.
When the whistle blew we were off, I stayed on her wheel to the first obstacle, then I noticed she was riding safe. She was not aggressive over the logs and was avoiding the table top skinny, so I powered though the features and got the lead. All I had to do was jump the gap to the finish. Coming toward the screaming fans (which included kids I coach, kids I teach, all the bike shops, other pros and most of Missoula since it was "Out to dinner" on Thursday night) I felt confident. U.N.F.O.R.T.U.N.A.T.E.L.Y........I wrecked off the jump. Not sure what I did, but I jumped up imminently with a bleeding arm and ran with my bike to the finish line only to have the Pro wiz by after she took the "B" line and did not jump. C.L.A.S.S.I.C
It was a good show for the crowd however, and of course my husband was at the end with look of "Why do you sign up for this?" - Ha ha, well, I had fun. And really, it was a good example of what happens when the "A" line doesn't work out. The girl that played it safe wins.
Not that I had ANY expectation of beating any of the Pro Women, but hey, a girls gotta try. Kudo's to the organizers for putting on a fun event, the hope was to pull folks interest to the MissoulaXC Pro Race on Saturday and I think the Eliminator did the job.
Check out the Missoulian article featuring this race and on of the boys that I coached the whole week in MTB CAMP. It was awesome that Mason got to compete with the Pro Men on his giant downhill bike. H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S.
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